Japanese defense spending at the fiscal crossroads

Japan’s 2021 defense budget is set to be its largest ever but is this trajectory fiscally sustainable?
Part of the US-Japan Alliance Project

This article was originally published in the East Asia Forum.

Japan’s 2021 defence budget is set to be its largest ever, continuing a near decade-long trend set in motion by former prime minister Shinzo Abe. Under Abe’s watch, Japan has increased its defence budget every year since 2005. The uptick in spending has continued since Abe left office in September 2020 — last December, the Ministry of Defense released its revised budget request for the 2021 fiscal year totalling approximately 5.3 trillion yen (US$50.2 billion).

This upward trend has at times been sensationalised as a return to militarism, with critics pointing to new capabilities introduced during Abe’s tenure. Recent examples include the indigenous development of long-range surface-to-air missiles and other ‘standoff capabilities’ to replace the cancelled Aegis Ashore missile defence program. The Aegis system will be replaced with destroyers and long-range cruise missiles based on the surface-to-air missiles already in use by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.

Read the full article in the East Asia Forum.

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